The People’s Protection Unit, commonly known as the YPG, is the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syrian Kurdistan. The group is one of the armed Kurdish forces in Syria and has so far taken a defensive position in the Syrian Civil War, fighting against any group that tries to take control of Kurdish areas.
The group was founded after the 2004 Qamishli clashes. The Kurds declared a general mobilization in early July 2014 in response to the attack by ISIS, following calls by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan. His organization has fought for the rights of Kurds in neighboring Turkey and has been designated as a terrorist group by the United States. Hundreds of young people from northern Kurdistan and around the world have joined the ranks of YPG. Even mothers, most of whom are over 40-years-old, have help to form a battalion to protect the gains of the Rojava Revolution that began in July 2012.
The YPG is composed of men and women from communities across the Kurdish region of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. An unknown number of non-Kurdish volunteers have joined the YPG, frequently from countries in the Americas, Europe and Australia.
In late July 2012, the People’s Protection Units pushed out government security forces from the city of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) and took control of Amuda and Efrin. As of December 2012, the YPG consisted of eight brigades. Some of these brigades operate in Efrin, Qamishli, Kobani and Sere Kanye.
The conflict has grown between the YPG and Islamists after a group of jihadists were expelled from the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain. In 2014, the YPG collaborated with the Free Syrian Army and the Levant in Ar-Raqqah Governorate. Alongside Kurdish Peshmerga forces, they have battled against Islamic militants who have seized large areas of Iraq and Syria.
Most of the YPJ are married and chose to devote themselves to the struggle and the adoption of discipline, training, charity and austerity practices. Those who participate in fighting range in age from 18 to 24, but there are recruits younger than 18 who cook, do housework and work in the media and administrative centers.
Many of the soldiers that lost their lives in the battles of Kobani and Sinjar had been with the YPG since 2004. A private ceremony celebrated the martyrdom of the fallen fighters and nationalist heroes.